One hundred twenty years ago this month, on November 5th, 1901, the citizens of Summit voted to make the Summit Library a municipal library supported by property taxes. Prior to this time the Library had been an association library with stockholders who purchased shares at a cost of $5.00 a share and were therefore allowed to check out two books at a time for two weeks. The Library operated out of the office of Dr. Risk and was open for just two hours every Saturday. The Library was moved several more times before a dedicated building was erected at the intersection of Tulip Street and New England Avenue in 1891 at the cost of $3,005.28. That was obviously money well-spent as the building still stands today and is the home of the Summit Playhouse.
Those dedicated, hard-working people who originally formed the Summit Library Association in 1874 with a collection of brown-paper covered books and those who some 25 years later had the vision to sponsor a referendum to municipalize the Library could not have imagined the Library of today. Today’s collection consists of more than 130,000 books, DVDs, CDs and more, eBooks and other electronic resources, computers, WiFi, 3D printers, a Library of Things and live and virtual programming for all ages. They could not have imagined today’s 36,000 square foot modern building that is open seven days a week and is visited by more than 200,000 people each year.
We have to thank the Ladies Book Club of Summit, the Summit Library Association and the City leaders for the vision they had and we have to hope that they are proud of what they accomplished for the residents of Summit when they first campaigned to municipalize the Library 120 years ago this month. Job well done. Happy Anniversary to the Summit Free Public Library.
Director, Summit Free Public Library